OMB clarifies A-76 challenges

A-76 Technical Correction

Federal employees and others can challenge the omission or inclusion of particular jobs in an agency's list of commercial activities after all.

Under the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act, federal officials must determine what jobs in their agencies can be done by commercial businesses, and thus potentially be opened to public/private competition. The original version of the Office of Management and Budget's Circular A-76 allowed challenges to the inclusion or omission of specific jobs on the list of activities eligible for competition, but some observers thought a revision published in May took away the right to challenge.

The revision stated that inventory challenges are limited to the "reclassification of an activity as inherently governmental or commercial" and to the use of "reason codes" to exempt commercial activities from competition.

OMB's use of the term "reclassification" in the May revision of A-76 caused confusion, agency officials said. Federal officials say the revision was actually intended to expand the right to challenge competition decisions, not restrict them.

"Notwithstanding the wording of [the] clause, OMB did not intend to impose such a limitation," reads a notice published this week in the Federal Register.

Circular A-76 and the Bush administration's drive to outsource federal work has brought tremendous opposition from federal employee unions and other organizations while drawing support from industry groups. Last month, the administration dropped stated numerical goals for opening commercial activities to competition, urging agencies to set internal goals.

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